Comparison of tarot de Marseilles and G.D. decks.

By Uri Raz.

In this page, I compare several G.D. related decks (Waite's, Crowley's, Wang's, ...) to each other, to the tarot de Marseilles, and to the cards' description in Book T, G.D. rituals (as brought in Regardie's 'The Golden Dawn' and 'The Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn'.), the Cipher Manuscript, and 'The Tarot Trumps" By G.H. Soror, Q.L. (= Felkin) which appears in various books.

In this document I attempt to point out some of the similarities and differences between the Tarot de Marseilles and decks based on the G.D. tradition, e.g. the popular Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Crowley Thoth deck, and Wang's Golden Down deck.

To add to the perspective, I've added the cards' description from G.D. & G.D. offshoots documents, such as Book T (for the minor arcana) and initiation rituals (the major arcana).

The only publicly available verbal description of The Fool through The Chariot, inclusive, I know of is an unofficial paper named "The Tarot Trumps" by Mrs Felkin, which, according to Wang, does not reflect Mather's opinions.

The major arcana cards were explained to G.D. members according to a simple principle - each initiation ritual relates to one of the spheres on the tree of life, and in each ritual the cards that relate to paths leading from spheres relating to previous rituals to the sphere relating to the current ritual would be explained to the initiate.

As those eight cards relate to the paths that enter into the supernal spheres (Kether, Chokma, and Binah), they should be described in the related rituals (Ipsissmus, Magus, and Magister Tempeli). AFAIK, Crowley was a n Ipsissimus (the degree relating to the sphere of Kether, 10=1), but I haven't seen any Magister Tempeli, Magus, or Ipsissimus rituals that described the related major arcana cards.

AFAIK, Robert Wang had access to unpublished material, e.g. Regardie's own deck, so it can be expected that his deck would not exactly follow any material I can present here.

I have split the table into two parts - minor arcana comparison table, and major arcana comparison table.

As can be seen from the table, some main differences and similarities are :

  1. Waite's deck is very different from the Tarot de Marseilles and the G.D. deck, e.g. in the non-geometrical pips and lack of lack of astrological signs or Hebrew letters on the cards, the influences of the Tarot de Marseilles and the G.D. on Waite's deck are still evident, e.g. in the aces and in the world card. Some of the differences in the major arcana are due to Eliphas Levi, and the design of some of the minor arcana cards was evidently influenced by the Sola Busca cards.

  2. Crowley's Thoth is different from the Tarot de Marseilles and the G.D. deck, e.g. all the angellic hands were intentionally dropped, but the influences are still evident, e.g. in the Ace of Swords, Two of Disks, the astrological attributions of the cards, colouring of the cards, and the assignment of Hebrew letters to trumps.

For further reading :
  1. The Influence of Etteilla & His School on Mathers & Waite, by James W. Revak.
    http://jwrevak.tripod.com/emw/emw_1.htm

  2. The Sola-Busca deck - this page shows the Sola-Busca deck, and by showing a few of the cards side by side demonstrates the influence of the deck on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
    http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/sola-busca/

Bibliography :
  1. Rider Waite Tarot - deck's page at Amazon.com

    Waite's Pictorial Key to the Tarot can be seen on-line at http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/index.htm

  2. Crowley Thoth tarot deck - deck's page at Amazon.com

    Crowley's Book of Thoth - book's page at Amazon.com

  3. Golden Dawn Tarot Deck - deck's page at Amazon.com

  4. Book T - http://tarot.org.il/Library/Mathers/Book-T.html

  5. The Golden Dawn, by Israel Regardie - book's page at Amazon.com

    The Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn - book's page at Amazon.com

    Permission to quote from this book was given by New Falcon Publications.

  6. The Cipher Manuscript - http://hermetic.com/gdlibrary/cipher/index.html

  7. The Golden Dawn Court Cards, As Drawn by W.W.Westcott - book's page at Amazon.com


Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, known also as the Rider Tarot and the Waite Tarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyrights 1971 and 1982 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S.Games Systems, Inc.

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